Chinese New Year: How Brands Can Be Part of The Celebration

Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, remains the most important holiday in China. Originally tied to the lunar-solar Chinese calendar, the holiday was a time to honor heavenly deities as well as ancestors. Significantly, younger generations of Chinese now observe the holiday in a different manner from their ancestors. Chinese New Year has evolved from a time to bring family together to an opportunity for relaxation from work. 

Learn how brands can blend ancient Chinese traditions with modern cosmopolitan events to celebrate the festival and grow brand exposure, engagement, and sales. Take a look at two of Chinese New Year’s most important activities.

Red Envelopes (红包):Red envelopes or packets are money-filled envelopes traditionally gifted to children from elders as a symbol of prosperity, happiness, and good health. In recent years, contemporary interpretations of the tradition have opened digital doors to e-red envelope exchanges across all age demographics through mobile apps. This virtual transaction of red packets has gained recognition as a popular practice to incorporate for many Chinese New Year marketing campaigns. In fact, Chinese New Year in 2016 saw over 8 billion e-red envelopes sent across China.

Alipay CNY

Case Study: Alipay – Collect Blessing Cards to Have a Blessed Holiday

Campaign Overview: Alipay is Alibaba’s online payment platform that is comparable to PayPal in the west. Initially, Alipay focused on mobile payments, e-transfers, and e-commerce, and has since moved towards its 9.0 phase. With the introduction of capabilities such as friend requests, instant messaging and status updates, Alipay wanted to position itself as both a mobile payment and social media platform.

Seeing the opportunity for increased social engagement, Alipay celebrated the Lunar New Year with Chinese consumers through the convenience of gifting e-red envelopes. The platform saw where digital money-transfers met instant messaging to offer a favorable way to exchange red envelopes. To promote communication, Alipay put together a giant promotional contest featuring over 200 Million RMB as the grand prize. The rules were simple: collect 5 unique “blessing cards” and claim a part of the 200 Million RMB cash pool. Users collect cards by adding 10 friends on Alipay (which awarded 3 cards) and trading with their friends to obtain all 5.

The Results: Incentivized by the 200 Million RMB prize pool, millions of people participated in the contest and so, collecting blessing cards became the talk of the town. Social interactions on Alipay increased exponentially as people raced to trade the blessing cards with their friends in order to collect all 5. One card was in such high demand, people began reselling it at over 100 RMB per card. The results?  790,000 lucky contestants collected all 5 blessing cards and divided the 200 Million RMB prize pool, which amounted to 271.66 RMB per person.

Going Home For CNY (回家过年)Like many holidays, Chinese New Year is a time for returning home to celebrate with the whole family. This is especially true in China, where a large portion of the population work in major metropolitan areas, thousands of miles away from extended family. The journey home is often a very emotional time to cope with the idea of seeing missed family and the stress of finding transportation to make it back home.

Unilever CNY

Case Study: Unilever Foods Solutions – The Taste of Reunion is Not Complete Without You

Campaign Overview:  Unilever Foods Solutions (UFS) is Unilever’s catering brand that supplies recipes and ingredients to chefs around the world. Relatively new to the Chinese market, UFS wanted to increase brand awareness, brand image, and sales among Chinese chefs.

UFS saw an opportunity to increase awareness and brand image when they noticed that many Chinese chefs were unable to return home in time to celebrate Chinese New Year. UFS then crafted a social media campaign centered on virtual messaging to allow chefs to participate in part of the festivities.

The campaign was rolled out in HTML5 through WeChat’s advertising platform and was divided into three phases.

Unilever CNY 2

Phase 1 involved a simple contest where chefs scanned bar codes on UFS products to receive prizes such as phone bill or instant messaging credits. The idea was to make calling home easier for those working over the holidays. Sharing was also strongly encouraged as it led to more prizes.

Phase 2 directed attention to the theme of “The Taste of Home”. Through inputting location information, UFS responded with a virtual message in the user’s dialect and included an image of a local delicacy. The image and message were designed to prompt strong nostalgic feelings leading to social media shares.

Phase 3 focused on the idea of sending a traditional Chinese New Year dish as a seasonal e-card to family and friends. Users were able to choose from a selection of three traditional dishes to pair with a preset or custom message. To top off this phase, UFS held a red envelope draw for winning chefs to travel home.

The campaign as a whole was wrapped up with a two-minute video tribute to chefs who worked through the holiday distributed via WeChat.

The Results: Through utilizing WeChat advertising targeting parameters, UFS was able to successfully reach its targeted chef demographic, making it one of the first B2B brands to effectively advertise on WeChat.

The results? UFS’ WeChat account acquired more than 1 million followers and an individual WeChat post acquired more than 300,000 views.

Key Takeaways:

First, it’s easier to add on to an age-old tradition than to make changes to it. This takeaway was key to success for Alipay and Unilever, where both campaigns were based on existing Chinese New Year behavior and customs.

Second, utilizing the right marketing channels paves the way to campaign success. For Alipay, distributing the contest through its own platform made perfect sense since people were already sending e-red envelopes on Alipay. In Unilever’s case, the brand utilized WeChat ads’ sophisticated targeting parameters to reach its ideal demographics, which resulted in high user engagement and sharing.

Lastly, attractive campaigns are interactive and shareable. Both Alipay and Unilver campaigns featured elements of social greeting and collaboration, which is at an annual high around Chinese New Year. The interactive aspect of the campaigns promoted social sharing, which spread awareness and engagement organically; therefore, furthering the reach of advertising dollars.

For more tips and guides on how to set up your Chinese New Year Marketing Campaign on WeChat, refer to our WeChat Advertising Guide.

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